In today’s technology, there’s an app for nearly everything you can think of, from simple games or grocery shopping lists, to complicated apps that help you manage a business. So it should be no surprise that there are also running apps. These apps do a variety of things that runners of all levels, especially beginners, will find useful.
There are nearly endless apps for fitness and exercise, but for the sake of this article, we’ve selected a small handful that we think will be most beneficial for runners just getting started. From logging your miles to tracking your heart rate, you’ll find the right features to help with your running in a number of popular and easy-to-use apps.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Couch to 5k
Aaptiv is ranked #58 in Health and Fitness on the iPhone App Store. It’s also rated 4.7 stars out of 5, based on more than 46,000 reviews. With that kind of feedback, you know it’s going to be a good app. This is a fitness app though, so you can use it for more than just running.
Aaptiv is more than just an app that counts calories burned. One reviewer puts it, “It’s like having a personal trainer in your pocket.” You’ll have unlimited access to audio-based fitness classes and music playlists that will get you in the groove.
New classes are added weekly to Aaptiv, making it so you never run out of new routines. Essentially, while you are running, you have someone motivating you, pushing you, and encouraging you every step of the way.
- Classes can be downloaded for use without wi-fi
- Large variety of options for different workouts, with new classes added each week
- Every level of fitness is offered, making it very versatile
- This app charges a higher-priced monthly or annual membership fee
- Many recent reviews mention a dislike that the classes offered now are under 30 minutes and a lot of content has been removed
2. Couch to 5k
Couch to 5K is a dedicated, running-only app. It is rated an impressive #4 in Health and Fitness on the AppStore. The 4.5 out of 5 star is also attractive, though that is with less than 2,000 reviews, so it is a newer app.
As the name suggests, this app is definitely designed for beginner runners looking for a plan that builds up from not running at all to completing a 5k. The program follows a timeline, running 20 to 30 minutes, three days per week, for a total of nine weeks. That gets you to be ready to run a 5k.
The program includes a selection of four running coaches who talk you through your workouts. You can also listen to your own playlists through the app, track distance and pace, and post your progress on Facebook.
- Extremely easy to use, just follow coaching directions
- Inexpensive one-time purchase of $2.99
- Some complaints that the GPS doesn’t track efficiently
- Some dissatisfied that it is not fully compatible with Apple Watch
The Endomondo app boasts a 4.3 out of 5-star rating with a little over 1,000 reviews. This is an app that is made for primarily running and walking, but has over 60 other workout options as well. It has many desirable features, such as GPS tracking and statistical analysis of your progress.
There is a free version, which gives you all the tracking options you could want for beginner runners. You can see your time, distance, calories burned, and speed. The app will tell you when you’ve reached certain distances or when you’re running at a set pace.
You can set your goals and watch your progress as you reach them. There’s a whole community you can be a part of to help you stay motivated as well. The premium paid option has more personal trainer programs, advanced statistics and tracking features, such as heart rate zone analysis.
- Free options
- Syncs with Apple Watch, Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, and other gadgets
- Can be paired with a heart rate monitor
- Not as easy to use as others
- Recent update has removed some features well-liked by users
- Some don’t like the sound of the audio voice
The Runtastic app is another well rated app, with 4.7 out of 5 stars from over 5,000 reviews. It is listed at #78 in Health and Fitness. This app is great for beginner runners, as it is simple and dedicated to running, walking, and biking so you won’t get overwhelmed with lots of other exercise options.
You’ll be able to track distance, speed, elevation, time, and calories burned with Runtastic – all the primary features you would want in a running app. The free version offers all of these features, so try it out before you decide if you want to splurge on the premium membership. It’s a good option if you’re not ready to buy a GPS watch.
If you do decide to upgrade to premium, you’ll add the ability to keep track of your records, and use their training plans or interval programs to change up your running routine. Plus, you could let your mind wander while running, using their Story Runs feature.
- Easy to use with a simple interface
- Free option is great if all you need are the basics
- Accurate tracking
- Apple Watch isn’t usable without your phone with you
- Free version is fairly limited for features
- Monthly or annual fee is a little pricey for what you get
Human is another well-liked app that takes a slightly different approach to tracking activity: it tracks minutes you move, rather than steps you take. Human automatically tracks bikes, walks and runs during the entire day.
With tracking movement instead of steps, the focus shifts to time spent exercising, instead of distance, intensity, and so forth. Taking your attention off performance stats can be a great option for the beginning runner. You can compare your movement to others in your community, helping encourage you and motivate you to do more.
This app is also able to sync with iOS Health, giving you a complete overview when combined with other apps.
- Free app – so it’s cost effective
- Simple app, easy to use
- Uses a lot of battery life as you are constantly using location services
- Not always accurate with map and locations
The Pacer app has over 54,000 ratings, giving it a top rating of 4.9 stars out of 5, and places #35 in Health and Fitness apps. This app is like using a pedometer, tracking every step that you take every hour of the day.
There’s a Pacer community that you can get involved in for staying motivated and talking with others doing the same thing. The app posts challenges to give you goals to reach, and it provides tracked data to help you monitor your progress.
Using Pacer is like having your own walking coach to keep pushing you and encouraging more steps than the day before. Their free option is great for all the basics, and will give you everything you need to get started whether you are a beginner or seasoned runner.
- Simple interface and the basic app is free
- Syncs steps and calories burned with MyFitnessPal and the Apple Health App
- Tracks blood pressure
- Charges monthly or annual fee for premium options
- Some had problems with syncing to other apps or devices
7. Nike+ Run Club
Nike+ Run Club is both hugely popular and well-reviewed: it has earned 4.8 out of 5 stars from over 231,000 ratings. That’s a pretty great record. Whether you walk or run, it’s perfect for a beginner.
The Nike+ app includes GPS tracking, challenges to keep you motivated, runs that are guided with audio, and coaching plans. It also makes it easy to use it with friends. Every generation of the Apple Watch works well with Nike+, and the app is free.
Another great feature is that it stores run history, specifically pace, heart rate, elevation, route, and distance. This is nice if you also want to keep an eye on your progress. The Nike global community will also help you stay on track and reach your goals with running accountability partners.
- Works well with Apple Watch
- Has coaching plans and options for staying on track
- Social media sharing options
- Doesn’t allow transfer of running data to other apps or programs
8. Gymboss Interval Timer
One downside of many of the previously mentioned apps is that they take a general approach to your running and fitness, and using them for more constructive workouts such as intervals can be awkward.
Enter Gymboss Interval Timer. This app isn’t as highly rated as some of the previous running apps, with only 3.4 out of 5 stars, but that’s with only 23 ratings. But it has some features that are worth trying out, especially because it’s more of an interval timer. This means you can program it to alert you at different times in your run to change things up. This is perfect for everything from a run/walk program to hard track workouts.
Gymboss is not just for running. You can set the time intervals for any type of workout and just focus on the work rather than on timekeeping, since it will alert you when the interval is up. It also has some nice customizable features, such as your display size, background, screen lock and more.
For those who like to keep workout data, you can save your programs to an iCloud drive. You have unlimited interval options and can set it for up to 99 rounds per time you repeat the interval. All around, a great option to add into any run training program to keep yourself on track. Plus, the app is free!
- Access your music through the app
- Social media sharing options
- Simple to use
- Not usable through Apple Watch